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The IOBA Standard is the journal of the Independent Online Booksellers Association and covers the book world, with a special focus on the online used, out-of-print, and collectible bookselling markets.


The Quiet Revolution: The Expansion of the Used Book Market ©

An analysis and overview of the used book market in the United States from 1993-2002

Book Hunter Press, publishers of The Used Book Lover’s Guides, is pleased to share with you this report on the expansion of the used book market.

Copyright 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003 Book Hunter Press Portions of this report may be reproduced with proper attribution to Book Hunter Press.

For more information contact:

Susan Siegel Book Hunter Press PO Box 193. Yorktown Heights, NY 10598 (914) 245-6608. Fax: (914)-245-2630

Contact us  For more information about The Used Book Lover’s Guides

2003 Update

In 1999, in The Quiet Revolution: The Expansion of the Used Book Market 1992-1999 , we took the first comprehensive statistical look at the used book market.

In 2001, we added revised Tables and new Charts reflecting the statistical changes that had taken since the publication of the original report.

Now, in 2003, we’re pleased to share the findings of our continuing tracking of the ever-changing used book market. What follows is a statistical update, augmented with some general observations about the used book market as of the end of 2002.

General Overview

Since our initial report in 1999, the used book market has continued to grow, both in terms of the number of dealers and the number and dollar volume of sales.

The industry has continued to change and evolve in response to the growing role of the Internet as a vehicle for selling used books.

As shown in Table I (Revised 2002), the total number of used book dealers continued to grow during 2002, reaching a total of 7,198 dealers. Over the past decade, there has been a 20% increase in the number of dealers.

(Please see the Methodology section below for an explanation of how these numbers are arrived at, and equally important, which dealers are and are not included in the figures.)

Given the diversity of what constitutes the used book market, in terms of buyers, sellers and books, we repeat the caution included in the 1999 Report against making generalizations about the used book market.

Comparative data for ’97-’00 not available. Source: Book Hunter Press. Copyright 2003

Chart I Revised 2002

Changes In Number Of Used Book Dealers 1993-2002

1. Comparative data for ’97-’00 not available. Source: Book Hunter Press. Copyright 2003

Table II  Revised 2002

Make-up of Used Book Market 

Source: Book Hunter Press. Copyright 2003

Chart II  Revised 2002

Make-up of Used Book Market As of 2002

Source: Book Hunter Press. Copyright 2003

Changes in Open Shops

For the ten year period 1993-2002, the number of open shops increased by 7%. However, after 2000, the number of shops began to slowly decline, and between 2000-2002, there was a 4.8% decrease in the number of open shops.

As a percentage of all used book dealers, open shops now account for 57% of all dealers, compared to 61% in 2000.

The growth and subsequent decrease in the number of open shops over the past decade has been uneven across the country with the Central/Western and Pacific Coast States the only regions experiencing a net decrease.

While the “net” number of open shops has declined, new used bookstores continue to open throughout the United States, with the greatest number of new stores opening in New England.

The new owners represent a cross section of ages, from couples in their 30’s to retirees. Many of the new owners are book collectors turned dealers who are living out their dream career.

The decline in the number of open shops can be attributed to a variety of reasons, including — death and retirement of the dealer — desire for a lifestyle change on the part of the dealer (health, family issues, burn-out from previous careers etc.) — lease problems and/or rent increases — decline in in-store traffic due to the Internet — overall decline in sales and profitability of store

Table III  Revised 2002

Changes In Number of Open ShopsRegion1993-961997-002002% Change

* Comparative data for ’93-’97 not available. Source: Book Hunter Press. Copyright 2003

Chart III  Revised 2002

Changes In Number of Open Shops

Source: Book Hunter Press. Copyright 2003.

A word about used book sales.

Although all informal and anecdotal indications are that used book sales are increasing, there are no reliable figures on the actual dollar volume of used book sales.

The reliability of estimated annual sales figures is limited by what the estimate counts and does not count, the source of the estimate, the methodology used to make the estimate and the motivation of the person or entity making the estimate.

The major reason for the lack of hard, verifiable sales information is the fact that most of the 7,200 used book sellers are small sole proprietors and as such, they are not required to publicly report their sales figures.

While large public companies such as and have reported that their used book sales have increased as a percentage of their total sales, they have not specified the dollar volume of their USED book sales.

Similarly, other large used book companies such as Alibris have reported increased sales volume, but not the dollar volume of the sales.

It is impossible to quantity the total number of sales, or the dollar volume of sales, made as a result of visits to multi dealer sites such as abebooks because only a portion of these sales are processed by the site owners.

For more information, tables and charts and prior years’ information, please go to:

Report Methodology (Revised, 2002)

Who’s Included

– – Booksellers who identify themselves as selling used, rare, secondhand, recycled, pre-owned, out-of-print or antiquarian books. Stores that sell both new and used books are included.

– – Dealers whose business has been verified by phone, mail, email or personal visit.

Who’s Not Included

– – Paperback exchanges that sell only used paperbacks.

– – Used booksellers who sell only at book fairs.

– – Dealers whose business operations could not be verified.

– – Relatively new dealers who operate exclusively via the Internet and typically, but not always, have limited stock.

Information Gathering

– – The names of potential used booksellers are gathered from a variety of sources including, but not limited to: . membership directories of state and national bookseller associations . local lists of booksellers . the Internet . trade publications . direct requests from booksellers . leads from other booksellers . leads from book collectors . telephone directories

– – Information about dealers is continuously gathered by questionnaire, phone calls and personal visits to bookstores. A minimum of two attempts, and often more, are made to verify information about a potential dealer.

– – Information gathered between 1992 and 1996 was first published in six regional Used Book Lover’s Guides plus a revised edition of the New England Guide. Between 1997-2000, revised editions were published for five editions, including a second revised New England edition.

– – Beginninig in 2000 when the database was put online, updates to all six guides have been made on a weekly basis. The print guides are updated yearly with print supplements.

Regions  – – New England: Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island – – Mid-Atlantic: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware – – South Atlantic: Maryland, Washington, DC, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida – – Midwest: Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Kentucky, West Virginia – – Central/Western: North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana – – Pacific: California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Hawaii

About the Company

Book Hunter Press was founded in 1992 by David S. and Susan Siegel.

A life long book collector, David Siegel retired as Superintendent of Schools for the Croton-Harmon School District in 1992. Susan Siegel was a public relations consultant before teaming up with her husband to form Book Hunter Press.

Since 1992, the company has been gathering information on the used book market in the United States, and, beginning in 1999, in Canada. The company’s database is the most comprehensive and most up-to-date database of used booksellers in North America.

In 1993, the company published The Used Book Lover’s Guide to New England. Subsequently, five additional guides were published covering other parts of the United States, and in 1999, a guide for Canada was added to the series.

Since 1995, the company has published revised and expanded editions of five of the original six guides. Between new editions, the guides are updated annually with published Supplements. The series currently features 8,000+ used book dealers offering in excess of 200 million books. In 2000, the entire database of 8,000 used book dealers was put online in a searchable format. The online database is updated on a continuing basis.

To date, the Siegels have traveled over 100,000 miles and visited thousands of used bookstores in the United States and Canada. 0ver 50,000 copies of the Used Book Lover’s Guides are in the hands of book collectors, specialty enthusiasts, used book dealers and librarians around the world.

The Siegels have been featured on national television on C-SPAN’s Book-TV, and in the Wall Street Journal , Washington Post, The New York Times , the Gannett Newspapers, Kiplinger’s Magazine and dozens of national and regional newspapers and magazines across the United States and Canada.




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